It’s a looooong time since I last went to a music festival of any sort; I don’t normally “do” them, let alone pop festivals, so just for you this poor old bird braved the Fusion Festival in Birmingham today to go and see Adam perform live as a soloist, so that I could write a review. It’s a tough job, but someone has to do it. Seriously though, as I’m a latecomer to the wonderful world of Glamberts, I’d never seen Adam perform live as a solo artist, so I was curious to see how he handled himself – and also how he sounded doing his own music.
For readers elsewhere in the world, I need to explain a little bit about the Fusion Festival. It’s held in my home city but is a comparative newbie, having only started in 2013. It’s billed as a “family-friendly” festival and is pop-orientated. So, it ain’t no Glastonbury, or Reading, or Download; it’s aimed at an entirely different audience. The three-day event was originally going to be headlined by Justin Bieber, but he was replaced by McBusted after withdrawing a little while ago. I don’t think I’ve ever heard any of Justin Bieber’s music, so I will tactfully refrain from any further comment…
Adam was a late addition to the festival lineup, much to the delight of the UK Glamberts as I think many of them had felt that they had missed out on seeing Adam do much in the way of live performance when he was over here in June doing promo for Ghost Town. This was therefore a great opportunity to catch him live, particularly as there still isn’t any information forthcoming about The Original High being toured in this part of the world (or any other QAL dates, cough….)
So, it was off to Cofton Park on the south-western edge of Birmingham earlier today. I have to say that I wasn’t one of the die-hards who got there at impossible o’clock this morning, like the ladies below.
I arrived mid-afternoon during the set by an Irish band called Hometown; I gathered from my Glambert mate Rachel that I was fortunate to have missed out on garage duo Gorgon City (hmm). Hometown were followed by X-factor alumna Karen Harding and then a most curious interlude led by a DJ dressed as a frog, accompanied by some giant inflatable green and purple fruit that looked rather like boobs (at least, they did to my warped little mind). This was followed by an R&B/pop artist called Conor Maynard.
I’m sorry guys, I don’t get R&B – it just jangles around in my brain and falls out of my ears. So, moving swiftly on from my issues with this type of music, the next artists to appear were a boy band called Union J. Again, this outfit have come through the X-factor system and were evidently semi-finalists a few years ago. I have to say I was pleasantly surprised. They looked OK, sang in tune, managed good harmonies and also did a very nice rendition of I Can’t Make You Love Me.
Finally, Adam was next up; one or two of the Glamberts had come very well prepared:
Adam launched into a very slick, five-song set. In order, the songs he performed were Evil In The Night, The Original High, Another Lonely Night, a quick trip into his older material with Whadya Want From Me and finishing with Ghost Town. If you haven’t seen any footage yet, because I’m writing so soon after the event there isn’t much on YouTube apart from the event’s own Periscope recording, which you can check out here:
(Video from adamlambert_pic’s YouTube uploads)
I’m sure there will be more fan videos available soon, so keep watching out for links on Facebook groups and Twitter – and of course through the many Adam-related fan sites. There are also tons and tons of pictures online and I wish I had the time and space to go through everyone’s and give you all a shout out, but Adam was captured beautifully here by Helen Bovill just as he was setting up to sing:
Adam has had one hell of a schedule in the last couple of months; last night he was in Poland and I’d be surprised if this isn’t catching up with him a bit; I think he looked tremendous (if a wee bit tired). I like the “less is more” look and he has gone back to black in the hair department in the last few days, possibly for the QAL South America tour which is coming up soon.
Vocally he most definitely didn’t disappoint. In some ways, it’s a shame Adam has to do recordings as there is simply no comparison with hearing his voice live. As I’ve said before, there are so many more colours and facets to it that recording equipment doesn’t capture. He also plays with the vocal lines more in live performances, usually by adding extra top notes which allow us to hear that incredible vibrancy he has up there.
He sings and performs with great ease and because he has that trained singer’s knack of knowing that you have to think through each phrase, it’s very easy to get the sense of the words and because of that, when he sings a song it hangs together well. (Thinking through phrases: this is a “singer” thing and I know it sounds mad, but if you think of a song in whole sentences rather than as a bunch of individual words, it makes a huge difference to the overall performance).
For me, it was also very interesting to hear Adam in direct comparison with a bunch of other singers, quite a few of whom had come through the talent show structure as he had. He has an outstanding voice; that eye-popping upper range and the ability (and nerve) to take his head voice into those stratospheric regions where many other male singers dare not go. He also showed us the full extent of his range across the 18-minute set; Evil In The Night has plenty of lower notes that we don’t often hear from Adam and of course, The Original High unusually features a lot of his falsetto register.
So what didn’t work? Vocally Adam’s set was was great and I think that as usual he put plenty of himself into the overall performance, but I don’t really get the need for the dancers in Ghost Town; for me, they’re a bit of a distraction and his voice doesn’t need anything to disguise it. Neat Adam is fine; I don’t think we even need Adam on the Rocks, if you know what I mean.
The song I enjoyed most was Another Lonely Night; Adam really gave this his all. It was the central song of the set and he went for it; plenty of high notes and great energy; it’s one of my favourite songs from the new album and even makes an old fart like me want to dance. He also gave a really sensitive performance of Whadya Want From Me; it was good to hear him sing something from his older repertoire. I would have loved to have heard the mashup of Trespassing and Another One Bites The Dust, as I think a British audience would have reacted really well to it; even though there were a lot of young people in the audience, Queen spread themselves far and wide.
And talking of Queen (you knew I’d get them in somewhere!), I do wonder if Adam has taken a little leaf out of Queen’s book in the way he performed today’s set. Music festivals are a bit odd – they’re totally unlike “real” gigs; your time is limited and you have to be able to get in, do the job and then get out again ready for the next band or artist to set up. You therefore have to be a bit of a ninja and make your mark quickly. When I was watching this afternoon, I was initially slightly surprised that Adam didn’t chat with the audience as much as some of the other performers did. But in doing that, he would have taken the time away from the music, which after all is what he was there for. He chose to perform his short set in a very “seamless” way, just as Queen did in their landmark set at Live Aid 30 years ago. They had a restricted time frame and wanted – needed – to make the biggest impact they could. So they packed in as much music as possible and their performance is still feted as one of the best ever under those conditions.
I think we’ll have to wait and see if today’s appearance at Fusion has broken some more ground for Adam in the UK – as I said at the start of this, it’s not a massive festival, but it’s got him out to an audience who might be new, or who might have watched that New Year’s Eve concert on the BBC and needed another reminder of his talent.
The only guest missing from today’s party was Lucy; such a shame she wasn’t able to show up as I think it would have been a huge surprise for the audience. Maybe she’ll make an appearance in South America, but I guess that Dr Brian is a bit busy with the rest of his many interests at the moment.
It’s less than three weeks to Rock In Rio; how I wish I had a teleporter (and a ticket!). I think it could be awesome.